Douglas F. Kydd
The Well Known and Lesser Known Trains of Pleasure Island
Most all who remember Pleasure Island are familiar with the narrow gauge train ride known as "Old Smokey" or the "Pleasure Island & Western RR," which ran for 7 of the 11 seasons Pleasure Island was open.
A substantial stationary railroad exhibit was also present during the first three seasons of Pleasure Island. "ENGINE CITY" was comprised of several retired railroad locomotives and cars which would eventually become part of the Steamtown USA museum at Bellows Falls VT, and later Scranton PA.
The opening of Pleasure Island in 1959 coincided with the replacement of the steam locomotive by the diesel on nearly all North American railroads. Visionary tycoon F.Nelson Blount, famous for the Blount Seafood Company and the narrow gauge EDAVILLE Railroad of South Carver MA. began amassing a collection of these large steam locomotives and antique coaches with the idea of assembling them into a Museum.
Pleasure Island was to become the initial repository for this growing collection of locomotives. Additionally, his Edaville Railroad supplied enough narrow gauge locomotives, cars and track to provide park visitors with a quaint open-air train ride. Passengers would board the train at a former B&M Railroad station building moved from the Greenwood section of Wakefield. The former Greenwood station was renamed "GOLDPAN GULCH".
The locomotives and cars in ENGINE CITY, being built to run on standard gauge track, were much too large to operate on the narrow gauge track of the Pleasure Island & Western RR. For this reason, these larger locomotives comprised a stationary hands-on, climb-aboard exhibit, which was located downhill from the Goldpan Gulch depot of the train ride
The narrow gauge train ride lasted until 1965, however the standard gauge ENGINE CITY exhibit lasted only for the 1959, '60 and '61 seasons.
One of the large steam locomotives displayed at ENGINE CITY was B&M # 3713 which had spent its 20-year career running through Wakefield, hauling express trains between Boston Massachusetts and Portland Maine . B&M # 3713, which was built in 1934, was in fact, the last steam locomotive to haul a train between Boston and Portland, this being on April 22,1956. Following the closure of Engine City, 3713 was displayed in New Hampshire and Vermont until 1969, subsequently at the Museum of Science in Boston until the mid 1980s and finally at Steamtown's new home at Scranton PA. At present, the 3713 is undergoing a complete restoration to operating condition. A much newer locomotive from the Boston to Portland run was diesel-electric locomotive B&M # 3814. Built by General Motors in 1946, this streamliner pulled passenger trains all over the Boston and Maine system until its retirement in 1959. On October 21,1952 the 3814 (and sister 3806) hauled a special whistle stop campaign train for presidential candidate Dwight D Eiesenhower through (but not stopping at, I believe) Wakefield.
For this writer, eventually to become a Locomotive Engineer of 23 years, 3814 was a very first taste of a lifetime aboard locomotives. I was at the ripe old age of 5 when I first sat in 3814'' engineer's seat and tried out her inert controls at Pleasure Island. A statistician would have a marvelous time trying to figure out just how many youngsters (myself included) and adults sat in this seat, unaware they were occupying the seat of honor once occupied by B&M Engineer F.A.Sanborn, who was hand picked to run General Elsenhower's special train several years earlier.
During the 1960s, there was much sentiment over the passing of the steam locomotives from our way of life, thus quite a few were preserved for future generations to enjoy. There was no such sentiment for diesel locomotives, in fact, they were looked upon with much hostility by railroad fans. For this reason, very few diesel locomotives of the era were saved. Consequently, diesel 3814 and her 19 sisters met with the scrapper's torch in Charlestown MA in 1963. Older steam locomotive 3713 however, still survives today.
F. Nelson Blount's collection soon outgrew the acreage at ENGINE CITY, and additionally, the Pleasure Island stopgap did not allow for his ultimate dream of being able to "drive" his own larger locomotives on his own railroad. During this time, additional locos were stored outside the grounds near the parking lot. Still more locos were visible to motorists passing through Lynnfield on Route 128. Eventually F. Nelson Blount found a redundant railroad yard in Walpole NH, just across the Connecticut River from Bellow Falls VT. This was destined to become the site of his envisioned STEAMTOWN U.S.A. The days of ENGINE CITY and its' home in Wakefield were numbered
On June 10,1961 the locomotives that had been stored out in the parking lot and alongside Route 128 were slowly towed to New Hampshire at a creepy 15 MPH. The local vandals had, by now, had a field day with the ancient wooden coaches and cabooses. Not a fragment of glass remained in the window frames.
On December 16,1961 the locomotives displayed inside at ENGINE CITY departed Pleasure Island forever, but not without incident. One of the largest locos (GRAND TRUNK WESTERN # 6039) derailed on a sharp curve near Route 128, causing a 3-hour delay to the move. These locos too, were bound for their new home at Steamtown USA in New Hampshire (later in Bellows Falls VT). This museum train halted briefly in Lowell, to subtract diesel # 3814 from the line-up. As was mentioned before, diesels were not yet considered museum pieces in 1961.
The STEAMTOWN USA collection continued to grow and finally moved from Vermont to Scranton PA following the 1983 season, where several of the ENGINE CITY locomotives still exist today. It is expected that B&M steamer 3713 will be up and running in a few more years. Perhaps in time for April 2006, someone may come up with the idea of chartering her for an excursion from Boston to Portland, commemorating the "Farewell to Steam" excursion of 1956. If that happens, she'll run within whistle blowing distance of the old Pleasure Island grounds.
Following the 1965 season, all the narrow gauge equipment of the Pleasure Island and Western Railroad was returned to its owner: EDAVILLE RR, which eventually closed in 1991. The narrow gauge equipment has all been moved to Maine, where it has been distributed among narrow gauge railroad museums there.
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